harbisons

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Did you know that today is #NationalCheeseLoversDay? What better way to celebrate than by making some cheese yourself? Today’s batch at Cheese Notes HQ was a bark-wrapped Gowanus Bloom. The bark straps, or “Sangles” as they’re known in French, are traditionally used in the production of Vacherin Mont d’Or, although it is now, for American cheese lovers at least, more commonly associated with great domestic cheeses like Winnimere and (the dearly, but hopefully temporarily departed) Rush Creek Reserve. The straps are made from the cambium, the strata of softer, spongy fiber that falls between the outer bark and the inner wood, and are harvested from spruce trees. Wrapping cheeses in bark has an interesting provenance, as Yoav Perry explains on his cheesemaking supply company site, ArtisanGeek.com

The history of this peculiar item is as interesting as its flavor. Originally alpine farmers used their “inferior” off-season milk to make cheese for their families. This autumn-to-winter milk was so high in fat and proteins that the cheese quickly ripened into goo. A hack was called into place: Strapping the cheese with the inner bark of local spruce trees (at the time, likely scraps from local carpentry).  An entirely new cheese emerged: Tannins and flora from the wood charging the cheese with sweet, acidic, resiny flavors. Wodsy and sappy aromas filling every bite. Appetizing pigmentation wrapping the entire cheese. Nowadays spruce-wrapped cheese such as Vacherin Mont d’Or, l’Edel de Cleron, Försterkäse, Petit Sapin or their American counterparts Harbison, Winnimere and, Rush Creek Reserve are anything but “inferior”. They are expensive and rare, highly coveted, and anticipated by legions of fans that await their arrival in top cheese shops every autumn.

The cheese I made here is in the same vein as Jasper Hill’s Harbison, a bloomy rind, soft-ripened cow’s milk cheese that goes gooey and spoonable as it reaches perfection. Whether this batch can even come close to that remains to be seen, but we’ll report back as it ages! Until then, get yourself to a cheese counter and pick up the bark-wrapped wheel of your choice. 

I want you to understand how people see you, and how your actions matter…You must learn that your place in the world is important. You’ve been given the power to affect people, just as we all have, and it’s important — no, vital — that you do the right thing with it.
—  Paige Harbison, Here Lies Bridget